The price of planes bought from Malaysia for a new Zimbabwe airline may have been inflated by up to $140 million, prompting a probe by President Emmerson Mnangagwa's government, a private newspaper claimed on Friday.
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa and Transport Minister Joram Gumbo said on Wednesday the government had paid $41 million for two Boeing 777s and a smaller Embraer aircraft from Malaysia, to be leased to a new airline: Zimbabwe Airways.
But the private Daily News, citing "highly-placed sources" said $140 million couldn't be accounted for, prompting a probe by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
"All in all, a total of $140 million cannot be accounted for as we speak, and that is why Mnangagwa had to order Gumbo to bring home the planes which were brought secretly using public funds," the source said.
The source told the paper that Mnangagwa believed the airline deal was part of "a grand scheme to steal public funds" by people who had the backing of former president Robert Mugabe while he was still in power.
But claims that Zimbabwe had overpaid for the planes were dismissed by Chinamasa. He insisted to the Daily News that only $41 million had been paid. One of the Boeing 777s purchased under the deal was delivered on Wednesday.
'Truth not told'
Questions have been raised as to why the government is supporting a competitor to its own national airline Air Zimbabwe.
Said opposition politician Obert Gutu in a tweet: "This whole Zimbabwe Airways saga stinks! We are not being told the exact truth! So we let the national airline, Air Zimbabwe die in order to give life to a privately-owned competitor, Zimbabwe Airways? Who does that?"